Monday, January 31, 2011

Gridlock at the Crossing

The picture shows a gravel truck crossing the railroad tracks last summer on its way to the dock. Imagine twelve of these vehicles backed up on Front Street unable to cross the tracks. That's exactly what happened this morning. 

According to an eyewitness, the southbound train that arrives in Hudson at 6:45 a.m. broke down. Because the disabled train was in the station, the crossing gates remained closed. By 6:50 a.m., about a hundred people from that train were waiting on the platform, and two or three trucks were waiting to cross the tracks. By 7:10, there were eight trucks, and people arriving by car to catch the 7:20 had trouble getting past the trucks to make their way to the parking lot. When the 7:20 arrived and the waiting people boarded the train, there were ten trucks on Front Street waiting to cross the tracks. By 7:30, when CSX manually opened the gates (there was still a stalled train in the station), the idling trucks on Front Street numbered a dozen and were backed up all the way to Ferry Street.   

The More Things Change . . .

There's a flag pole on Promenade Hill today, and, as this image indicates, there was a flag pole on Promenade Hill in the 1840s. But apparently in 1898 there was no flag pole, and, according to this account from the Evening Register for August 9, 1898, the Common Council couldn't agree to put one there.


The Question Long Agitated Lost
in the Common Council

Ald[erman] Fardy, from the special committee to see about a flag pole for the Promenade hill, reported that the committee had seen Mr. Every, of Athens, and inspected the pole he proposed to erect if awarded the contract, and found the some perfectly satisfactory in every respect. The price named was $175, without the weather vane, and $200 with the vane. The committee had interviewed Mr. Patterson and found that he had no pole, but wished the committee to go with him in the country and find one, and the committee had declined the honor.

Ald. Fardy moved that the contract for erecting a flag pole on Promenade hill be awarded to Mr. Every, of Athens, for the sum of $175.

Ald. Johns moved an amendment that the committee advertise for bids for the erection of the pole.

Ald. Kelley thought that would be the most satisfactory way of proceeding in the premises and seconded the motion of Ald. Johns.

On a call of the ayes and nays the amendment was lost by the following vote.

Ayes--Fehl, Johns, Kelley, Winslow--4.
Nays--Recorder, Eaton, Fardy, Peake, Roach--5.

A vote was then taken on the original motion of Ald. Fardy and lost by the following vote.

Ayes--Eaton, Fardy, Peake, Roach--4.
Nays--Recorder, Fehl, Johns, Kelley, Winslow--5.

Recorder Kennedy in voting stated that he was opposed to the erection of any flag staff on the part of the city, believing as he did that they had no authority under the charter to do do, but that it was the privilege of the Public Works Commission to attend to the matter.

On motion of Ald. Kelley the Council adjourned. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Charter Change

At last Wednesday's Legal Committee meeting, Hudson Democratic Committee Chair Victor Mendolia submitted a proposal to create a Charter Revision Commission. The goal of the commission would be to identify changes to the Charter that would "optimize efficiency, foster fair and equal representation, and seek the best possible model for responsible government." Mendolia's proposal cites seven specific issues to be considered:
  • increasing the mayoral term to four years
  • redrawing election districts to create districts of equal population
  • having the City Treasurer appointed by the Common Council rather than elected
  • requiring mayoral appointments to be confirmed by the Common Council
  • reducing the number of supervisors representing Hudson in county government
  • eliminating the positions of commissioners
  • adjusting salaries and/or benefits for elected officials
Most critical on this list, in my opinion, is redrawing the election districts. It's sad to contemplate doing away with the wards. The ward divisions of the city have existed for close to two hundred years. Starting out, the four wards were not equal geographically, but they were undoubtedly equal in terms of number of dwellings and population. 

As the city developed and new residential neighborhoods were created, the Third Ward was divided into two districts. In the 20th century, a Fifth Ward was introduced and eventually also became two districts. The boundaries of the First and Second wards are the same today as they were in the 19th century, and the Third Ward is also basically the same, but the Fifth Ward was created out of what was originally the Fourth Ward, dramatically reducing the size of the Fourth Ward. 

To compensate for the fact that wards are of different sizes and populations, the Common Council was a weighted vote. The votes of the aldermen who represent the larger and more populous wards of the city carry more weight than the votes of the aldermen who represent the smaller wards with smaller populations. For example, the votes of the two aldermen representing the Fifth Ward--Robert Donahue and Richard Goetz--carry the weight of 278 votes each, while the votes of the two alderman representing the First Ward--Sarah Sterling and Geeta Cheddie--each carry the weight of only 94 votes. When the two Fifth Ward aldermen vote together in the affirmative, they cast 556 votes, more than half what's needed for a simple majority (1,011). When the two aldermen from the First Ward vote together, their votes equal the single vote cast by the Common Council President (188), are only four votes more than those cast by one Second Ward alderman (184), and are equal to just 70 percent of the vote cast by one Third Ward alderman (266). Although the people of the First Ward have two representatives on the Common Council, because of the weighted vote, they are significantly underrepresented. I use the First Ward as an example because I live in the First Ward and used to represent the First Ward on the Common Council, but the same is true for the Fourth Ward. The two aldermen representing the Fourth Ward--Sheila Ramsey and Ohrine Stewart--also cast votes that are worth only 94 votes each toward a simple majority.   

The weighted vote is recalculated every ten years, after the national census, so it's time to recalculate again. This time, instead of adjusting the weight of the vote for each ward, the boundaries of the election districts should be adjusted so that the population of each district is the same and the vote of the alderman representing each district carries the same weight. 

It's been recommended that this process begin with the seven districts that already exist: Ward 1, Ward 2, Ward 3-1, Ward 3-2, Ward 4, Ward 5-1, and Ward 5-2. The boundaries of the districts would then be shifted as needed to create seven districts of equal population. Each of these seven districts would then have one representative in the Common Council instead of two. Although aldermen aren't paid huge salaries, reducing the number of aldermen from ten to seven would be a saving to the City, or it could allow the City to give the aldermen a budget-neutral salary increase--from $4,000 a year, which is what they get now, to a little more than $5,700 a year. 

It's an idea whose time has come.         

New Horror for the Hudson

This isn't new news, but Congressman Chris Gibson wants to build a nuclear power plant and nuclear waste reprocessing facility in the 20th Congressional District and thinks the Hudson River might be a good place to site such a facility. No nuclear plants have been built in New York since the meltdown at Three Mile Island (shown above) in 1979, but Gibson says times have changed. "It's clean, it's good for the environment, it's safe," says Gibson of nuclear energy. There's an article on the subject worth reading in today's Saratogian: "Rep. Gibson pushes for use of nuclear power in 20th Congressional District."  

Thanks to Ruth Moser for bringing this article to our attention. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Positively Hudson

Two events coming up next Saturday, February 5, are indicative of some of what gives Hudson its unique character and energy. 

From 6 to 8 p.m., the Hudson Pride Foundation is sponsoring Rainbow Skate Night at the Skate Factory, 1131 Route 9H in Ghent. It's an LGBT friendly, teen friendly event for skaters under 21 only--although there will be adult chaperones.  Admission is free for the first 30 skaters; after that, it's $5. It's a private party and only those on the list will be admitted. To get on the list, send an email to 

For those over 21, there's something else: Hedda Lettuce, the Queen of Green, performing at Stageworks. Hedda, who's been described as "delightfully offensive" and acclaimed for her "poised characters, startling satire, and original music," will be appearing with some surprise guests. The performance begins at 8:00 p.m., but show up at 7:30 for snacks and a free glass of wine, courtesy of (p.m.) Wine Bar. In the dead of winter, there's nothing more heartening than a good laugh and a good glass of wine. To order tickets, visit the Stageworks website or call 822-9667.

New Carriage House on Partition Street

A new carriage house is being built on Partition Street, behind 111 Union Street. It has a two-stall garage, above which it appears there will be living space, with three large windows commanding a view of the mountains and the river. There's a building permit displayed at the site, duly signed by Code Enforcement Officer Peter Wurster. The problem is that Partition Street is part of a locally designated historic district, and the plans for this building never came before the Historic Preservation Commission for a certificate of appropriateness.   

Organic Milk Processing Plant Coming to County

The Register-Star reports today that Dante and Kristin Hesse, founders and proprietors of Milk Thistle Farm in Ghent, have entered into an agreement with outside investors to build a new interstate-certified organic milk processing plant in Stuyvesant: "Area dairy farm seals deal with investors for plant." The plant is expected to create eight to ten new jobs, and local contractors will be used to construct the new LEED-certified building. 

In July 2009, ccSCOOP published a video interview with Hesse in which he talked about looking for investors. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rebuilding the Second Ward

Someone asked me recently what I thought the houses that Habitat for Humanity plans to build on the 200 block of Columbia Street should look like. The classic historic preservation response to this question is that new construction should be compatible with the existing historic fabric but not imitative. The test of compatibility involves three elements: mass--the proportions of new structures, especially height and width, should be similar to those of existing buildings; texture--the surface quality of the new structure's material should be harmonious with the predominant surface quality of the existing buildings; and continuity. This final element, continuity, is more complicated. It involves the placement of a new structure and its spatial relationship to the street and neighboring buildings (setbacks). It involves the relationship of solid and void (walls and windows) in the new structure and the existing structures. It involves the continuation in the new structure of the predominant lines--vertical, horizontal, diagonal--found in the existing structures. It involves roof shapes, window shapes, projections, and architectural details.

Compatibility is not an easy or obvious concept. Book length studies have been devoted to it. There was a time when historic preservationists were in agreement that new construction--even additions to existing structures--should be compatible but  differentiated from historic buildings to reflect the architectural style of their time. The townhouse on West 11th Street in New York City, which replaced the one destroyed in 1970 when a pipe bomb being built by the Weather Underground accidentally detonated, is often cited as the perfect example of new construction that is both compatible and differentiated. In recent years, however, the issue of differentiation has be revisited by some historic preservationists in light of very Modernist additions to historic buildings and new buildings in historic settings in New York City and Charleston, South Carolina.

The finer points of compatibility and differentiation seem rather like splitting hairs when faced with the question of what to do on the 200 block of Columbia Street. There is so little of the original architectural fabric left. On the south side of the street, a few of the street's original houses remain, spaced out by vacant lots where presumably similar houses once stood. Tucked into one of these vacant lots, surprisingly, is an occupied house trailer, something I always imagined was not permitted by Hudson's zoning code. On the north side of the street, the row of little setback single-story houses constitutes the majority of the buildings on that side of the block. There are three surviving buildings near the east end of the block--two that the mayor and Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes have indicated they would like to see demolished and one that is currently the office of Housing Resources of Columbia County. If new construction should be compatible with existing buildings, the question for this architectural hodgepodge of a block is: With which buildings should the new construction be compatible?

Sadly, hodgepodge describes the architecture of the Second Ward as a whole. There's a nine-story "high rise" apartment building and several two-story "low-rise" apartment buildings; there are straight rows of two-story attached houses, a row of single-story detached houses, a "quadrangle" of duplex apartments, a complex of garden apartments, and a five-story apartment building that fills an entire block--all built in the 1970s with no apparent concern for how the buildings relate to one another or how the whole assortment of structures relates to the rest of the city. Juxtaposed to this is State Street, which, above Second, retains most of its original houses, some of which are examples of Hudson's very early vernacular architecture. And then there is Robinson Street, with its vernacular houses and its own unique scale. 

The Second Ward is distinguished by its architecture but not in a good way. If Bliss Towers is to come down--and not everyone agrees with the necessity or advantage of this course of action--a great swath in the center of the Second Ward will be a tabula rasa, and it will take some very smart visioning and planning if the Second Ward is not to become more of an architectural hodgepodge than it is today. 

A few years ago, Housing Resources did a project on the north side of town that they called Hudson Homesteads. The goal was to create new houses that fit in with the existing architecture, and they worked with people who had done a similar project in Poughkeepsie. They built two houses on North Second Street, another on Robinson Street, and several on Columbia Street, across from the Cannonball Factory. Many of the houses are brick or brickface and have bracketed cornices. That's one approach--compatibility bordering on replication.

A few years ago, too, the PARC Foundation proposed an extensive redevelopment plan for the Second and Fourth wards, designed by California architect Teddy Cruz, which took the shantytowns of Tijuana as its inspiration. That was another approach, which claimed compatibility but seemed to some to be quite radical for a Northeastern city.  

All this brings us back to the original question: What should new construction in the Second Ward look like? Perhaps it would be better to ask what it should try to achieve. The primary goal should be to create buildings that bring architectural integrity back to the neighborhood and make it feel more like the rest of the city. Here's a suggestion for how we might achieve this.

All of the Second Ward is included in the Waterfront Revitalization District--the area included in the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. Appendix G of the LWRP (the last eight pages of the draft document) provides a "Design Guidelines Template," the main objective of which is to "ensure that new development fits in well with its surroundings." There are many people with expertise in architecture, historic preservation, and urban planning who live in Hudson or its environs and care deeply about Hudson and its future. The Common Council should create an ad hoc committee made up of some of these people to review the design guidelines included in the LWRP, determine if they are adequate to ensure the desired outcome for the Second Ward, and refine or modify them as necessary to create design guidelines that are uniquely appropriate for the Second Ward. When the committee has made its recommendations, they could be adopted immediately by the Common Council, as an amendment to the current zoning code, to inform redevelopment and encourage revitalization in the Second Ward.            

About the Waterfront

Yesterday "Tell It Like It Is" on WGXC, hosted by Richard Roth, featured an interview with Christopher Reed and Don Moore on the topic of the Hudson waterfront. You can download it here. The interview begins about a quarter of the way through the hour-long program.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Quest Continues

In the latest in a long series of committees, subcommittees, task forces, and studies created and undertaken to find the right place for the Department of Social Services and other county offices, the Columbia County Capital Resource Corporation (CRC), which a few months ago proposed buying the old Walmart building and moving all county departments except those legally required to be located in the county seat out to Greenport, recently issued a Request for Proposals for "Space Needs Assessment, Programming and Design Criteria Services." 

This latest move doesn't mean the Walmart plan is off the table. The introduction to the RFP states: "Columbia County, New York intends to improve the coordinated delivery of services, increase operating efficiencies, and reduce costs to taxpayers by consolidating office space, to the extent feasible, for County programs and services operated from separate offices in the Greenport and Hudson area as well as potentially ancillary facilities in the County." The background information provided in the RFP ends with this paragraph: "The CRC has been investigating one such proposal of purchasing a vacant Wal-Mart store located in the Town of Greenport, NY for a location for consolidated offices. It is expected that this would be an alternative that would be part of this project."

Matthew Frederick has an analysis of the situation on his blog, Hudson Urbanism: "Quantifying the unquantifiable: relocation of county offices."    

What's in a Name?

Gossips missed an article that appeared in the Tuesday's Register-Star"Mental Health changes name, adds locations." It reports that the Columbia County Office of Mental Health will henceforward be called "Behavioral Health Services." It also announces that Behavioral Health Services is opening two satellite offices: one in Valatie and one in John L. Edwards Primary School here in Hudson. Valatie is 12 or so miles away from 325 Columbia Street, where Behavioral Health Services is now located; John L. Edwards is two blocks away. The JLE office will serve schoolchildren and their families only. 

It would seem that the presence of a county behavioral health facility in one of the schools might have some cost saving implications for the Hudson City School District, which employs six psychiatrists/psychologists, two of them assigned to the primary school, but apparently not. The satellite office will have "therapists and prescribers," which, according to Behavioral Health Services Director Michael Cole, "can provide another dimension of what's already there." 

Not With a Bang But a Whimper

First Ward Alderman Sarah Sterling's resolution authorizing Mayor Scalera to enter into negotiations with Holcim to buy the dock died in committee last night. It seems that City Attorney Cheryl Roberts, presumably at the request of Mayor Rick Scalera, sent the resolution to Holcim Corporate Counsel Brian Smith. At tonight's Legal Committee meeting, discussion of the resolution began with Committee Chair Ellen Thurston reading Smith's response, which said in part: "At this time Holcim (US) has no present intention of selling any of its property at what we call our 'Greenport Site,' including either the port property located in the City of Hudson, or any of its mine property located in the Town of Greenport. Additionally, as you know, the port property is the primary means by which aggregate is shipped from the quarry to its customers by O&G Industries, who is currently operating on the property. For this reason, it is unlikely that we would consider selling the port property separate from the quarry property, even if were marketing the property for sale." (Yes, that's quoted exactly as it was written.)

After the letter was read, there was no discussion, except for Common Council President Don Moore making the point that the valuation of the dock, because Holcim is grieving the assessment, is now in the hands of the court and the court will make a decision about its worth. The Legal Committee then moved on to its next agenda item.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tonight at City Hall

Clear your calendar, reschedule dinner, do whatever necessary to allow yourself to be at City Hall tonight from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for two important Common Council committee meetings.

At 6:00 p.m. is the Public Works Committee meeting. If you're unhappy about the City's snow removal efforts, want to congratulate the department on a job well done, or have questions about what to do with the snow you clear from your sidewalk, come to the meeting to share your thoughts and ask your questions of DPW Superintendent Rob Perry.

At 6:45 p.m. is the Legal Committee meeting. On the agenda is the resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into negotiations to buy the dock from Holcim US, who claim they realize no income from their property in Hudson. The committee will be discussing the resolution and voting on whether to present it for a vote of the full Council.      

Not to Be Missed

Inspired by Etsy's plans to open an office in the Cannonball Factory, Scott Baldinger has a new post on his blog, Word on the Street, speculating about possible reuses for other major and currently unused buildings in Hudson: "Baked Goods."

More About the Dock

Even though Holcim has acknowledged that the first income and expense statement they submitted was for a different property, today's Register-Star reports that Holcim is still claiming that they realize no income from the dock or all the gravel-hauling activity that Hudson is subjected to every day: "Holcim maintains: no income from dock." The article quotes a recent letter from Holcim attorney Bruce J. Stavitsky: “I have been advised by Holcim US Inc. that in regard to its property in Hudson, New York, there is no rental income realized by this location. O&G reimburses Holcim for all property taxes assessed to Holcim for this site." 

Poor Holcim. Someone should relieve them of this woefully unproductive possession.  

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Do You Know Who Designed the C-GCC Campus?

An obituary appeared in the New York Times today for an architect named Edgar Tafel, who died last week at the age of 98. I learned from the obituary that Tafel was "among the best known of Frank Lloyd Wright's many apprentices." As an apprentice to Wright, he worked on Fallingwater, in rural Pennsylvania, and the Johnson Wax Building, in Racine, Wisconsin. Among Tafel's many projects, after establishing his own office in the late 1940s, are a church house for the First Presbyterian Church at Fifth Avenue and 12th Street in Greenwich Village, completed in 1960 and considered to be his best work, and the campus of Columbia-Greene Community College.

William in Winter

Some readers have mentioned that they haven't seen William and me out walking lately, so I decided to explain why we've departed from our usual routine. William is fine, but he's soon to celebrate his 13th birthday, and his circulation must not be what it used to be because his paws get very cold in the ice and snow. It breaks my heart to see him first limping, then trying to lift all four paws off the ground simultaneously, and finally lying down in an effort to get his paws out of the cold, so, since I can't scoop up a 75-pound dog and carry him home in my arms, we take shorter walks and more walks, never straying too far from the warmth and shelter of our house.

For the first winter we were together--1999-2000--I bought booties to protect William's feet from ice and salt, but he refused to wear them. After several attempts to put them on, and finding he'd tugged the first two booties off before I'd gotten the fourth one on, I gave up. In 2001, we donated the booties to the rescue dogs working in the rubble of the World Trade Center, who needed them to protect their feet from scrapes and cuts. Maybe it's time we tried booties again.    

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bad News for Writers and Designers

An article that appeared on last week suggests that unattractive typefaces may help people better understand and remember what they read: "Hideous fonts may boost reading comprehension." The generally reviled Comic Sans is one of the hideous fonts mentioned. A little unique-to-Hudson historic footnote: Comic Sans was the font used on the website of the Hudson Valley Environmental/Economic Coalition (HVEEC), the "astroturf" organization that advocated for the cement plant during the battle over SLC's proposed "Greenport Project." 

The font used for The Gossips of Rivertown is Georgia. We're counting on our readers' well-developed comprehension skills to overcome the use of what we think is an attractive and easily read typeface. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Urban Renewal Redux

Early aerial photographs of Hudson show that once upon a time the Second Ward looked pretty much the same as the First Ward. The grid pattern of the streets was regular. Houses and buildings stood on 26-foot wide lots with a relationship to the street that is identical to that which still exists in the First Ward. A walking tour guide, written by Ruth Piwonka, to accompany a book signing celebrating the publication of Bruce Hall's book Diamond Street in 1994, suggested that, already in the 19th century, the south side of town was considered marginally more affluent than the north side. It would seem that the economic gap between the neighborhoods on either side of Warren Street--below Third Street at least--had widened by the 1970s, because when the city fathers decided to eliminate what was allegedly the "worst housing stock in the state," they targeted the Second Ward.          

What happened forty years ago during Urban Renewal had an enormous, community-altering impact not only on the neighborhoods of the Second Ward but also on the city as a whole. Today Hudson still deals with the consequences of the decisions made by the Hudson Urban Renewal Agency in the late '60s and early '70s--decisions that concentrated low-income housing in one area of the city and rendered the revitalization that has taken place in the First Ward and elsewhere impossible by destroying much of the historic architecture that has been the engine of Hudson's revitalization. Although the Hudson Urban Renewal Agency seemed not to foresee the long-term effects of their plans, they did make an effort to keep the community informed while these very radical changes were being proposed. The History Room at the Hudson Area Library has a number of brochures published by the Hudson Urban Renewal Agency and newspaper articles touting the benefits to the city of the demolition and redevelopment project--including the anticipated benefits, through PILOTs, to the tax base.

What's being contemplated now--the elimination of Bliss Towers and the creation of dozens of single-household replacement units scattered throughout the Second and Fourth wards or perhaps throughout the whole city--is equally radical and will also have a significant and long-term impact on the city, yet no effort at all is being made to keep the residents of Hudson informed about what's being contemplated. At the informal Common Council meeting on January 10, Council President Don Moore said that Tim O'Byrne has been hired by Omni Development to address the Bliss Towers replacement project. Tim O'Byrne, it seems, is "Site Selection Specialist at BBL Development Group," the design/build firm that brought us the Central Firehouse on Seventh Street and the county office building at 325 Columbia Street. Last Tuesday, before the Council approved the resolution to give land in the 200 block of Columbia Street to Habitat for Humanity, Moore indicated that the lots were not among the parcels being requested by Omni Development, so presumably somebody--perhaps Moore himself--knows what parcels they are requesting, but so far the information has been kept from the public. This project will have an enormous impact on Hudson, and it should proceed, if not with the involvement and input of the whole community, which would be ideal, certainly with the community's knowledge of what's being contemplated before the plan is presented as a fait accompli.

The property tax implications alone are a compelling reason why the community needs to know what's being considered. The single-household units built to replace Bliss Towers will be tax exempt. The vacant properties now owned by the City of Hudson, HCDPA, and HDC, which are likely sought by Omni Development, are currently tax exempt, and if they become the sites of Bliss Towers replacement units, they will be tax exempt in perpetuity. Can Hudson really afford to consign any more of its small land area to decades of tax exemption?  

Consider 13 South Second Street. Until a few years ago, this was a vacant lot, and were it still a vacant lot, although it wasn't owned by the City of Hudson, it might well be one of the parcels sought for Bliss Towers replacement units. Today, however, it is not a vacant lot but rather the site of a house that is on the tax rolls, assessed at $317,300. 

In his "State of the City" address, delivered at the Organizational Meeting of the Common Council on January 10, Moore mentioned Governor Andrew Cuomo's intention to establish a two percent property tax cap and its implications for Hudson. If the City must limit how much it can raise the taxes on existing properties, a logical way to meet its ever increasing budget demands would be to encourage the creation of more taxable property rather than dedicating more of Hudson's limited land area to new tax exempt property. It is hoped that Moore, Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes, Mayor Scalera, and whoever else is in discussion with the Hudson Housing Authority and Omni Development about this project keep the City's fiscal sustainability in mind as they plan this new scheme of "renewal" for Hudson.      

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Where the Furgary?

In June 2010, the Furgary Boat Club, calling itself the "North Dock Tin Boat Association, Inc.," filed an adverse possession lawsuit to stop the transfer of the land on which the shacks that comprise the club are situated from the State of New York to the City of Hudson and to establish forever the "clear and vested rights" of the boat club "to use, occupy, and possess" the property. Today the Register-Star reports on the progress of that lawsuit: "City awaits decision on Fugary [sic] Club." In December, the City filed a motion to dismiss and is now awaiting the court's decision.

The City of Hudson is being represented in the lawsuit by Victor Meyers of the Hudson law firm Rapport Meyers. The North Dock Tin Boat Association is represented by Scott C. Paton of the Albany law firm McNamee, Lochner, Titus, & Williams. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hendrick Hudson Chapter House

One of the 1898 news items published yesterday made reference to the efforts of the Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to raise funds for a public library. Readers may wonder about the outcome of that effort, so today we publish an article that appeared two years later, on May 15, 1900, in the New York Times, reporting the gift of the Robert Jenkins House to the D.A.R. chapter in Hudson. We'll quote the article in its entirety, because it's fascinating and because it provides an example of why Hudson has a reputation for being a "town of breakage."


It Is Presented to Hendrick Hudson
Chapter, D.A.R.


Son of the Founder of Hudson--Latter's
Great-Granddaughter, Mrs. Marcel-
lus Hartley, the Donor

Special to The New York Times
HUDSON, N.Y., May 15--Mrs. Frances C. W. Hartley, wife of Marcellus Hartley, presented this evening to the Hendrick Hudson Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution the handsome old Colonial house in Warren Street in which she was born, and which was built in 1811 by her grandfather, Robert Jenkins, this city's third Mayor. Robert Jenkins was the son of Seth Jenkins, who with his brother Thomas founded Hudson and was its first Mayor.

Mrs. Hartley's conclusion that in no more fitting way could she show honor to her native city and to the memory of her forefathers than by presenting the homestead to her sisters of the Hendrick Hudson Chapter met with hearty response from them. Mrs. Hartley gave with the house the fine Colonial furniture it contains, and caused improvements to be made costing over $25,000. The mansion will be used as a chapter house and library by the chapter henceforth.

There was but one incident to mar the pleasure of the assembled guests. The 4 o'clock train from New York, bearing, among others, Mrs. Heron Crossman, Vice President of the National order; Mrs. Terry of the Fort Greene Chapter, Mrs. Ward of the Knickerbocker Chapter, and many other distinguished guests, was stalled for nearly five hours at Poughkeepsie, and when they saw that it would be impossible to arrive on time, they abandoned the trip and went back to New York.

The grand old mansion was to-day covered with bunting, and the hall was beautifully decorated. One of the most distinguished gatherings this city has even held assembled, and there was round after round of applause as Mrs. Hartley took her seat on the platform with Mrs. John W. Gillette, Regent of the Hendrick Hudson Chapter.

Dr. H. Lyle Smith made the introductory address. It was his book of travel--the proceeds of which were given to the Hendrick Hudson Chapter--that drew Mrs. Hartley's attention to the chapter's work, and it was his earnest plea which convinced her of its need. An address by the Mayor, Charles S. Harvey, followed.

Mr. Harvey said that the citizens of Hudson pointed with pride to the magnificent gift, and that very few cities in the United States could boast of an institution of like character. Mrs. Hartley received an ovation as she arose to make her gift, and it was ten minutes before she could be heard. She spoke as follows:

"Madame Regent, the officers and members of the Hendrick Hudson Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution:

"It gives me much pleasure to meet a society which was formed to commemorate the deeds of the makers of America and the founders of the American Republic. At the time of the breaking out of the War of the American Revolution, Nantucket (the birthplace of two of these founders--Seth and Thomas Jenkins) was noted for its connection with the whale fishery, and was at one time the largest whaling station in the world, but during the war, England had entire control of the marine of her Colonies, and through this control she prevented the natives from doing the things they wished to do; in consequence her commerce and industries were greatly interfered with. And at the close the American Revolutionary War, the flag of the new Republic was first seen at a British port, flying from the masthead of a Nantucket whaling ship.

"In the Spring of 1783, two brothers, Seth and Thomas Jenkins, left Providence, R. I., to reconnoitre the Hudson River for a new place of settlement, taking with them $100,000.

"Upon arriving at New York they called upon Col. Henry Rutgers, an old friend of Seth's, and told him their plan. He listened attentively and finally offered to sell them his farm, embracing now that portion of the city east of Division Street, bounded on the south by Catharine Street and on the north by Scammel or Gouverneur Street. They entertained his offer, but differed $20,000 in the price; Seth offered to divide the difference, but the Colonel held firmly to his price and the negotiation fell through.

"Having reconnoitred all the way up the Hudson River, they fixed on the unsettled spot at Claverack Landing for a town. At this point they found the river navigable for vessels of any depth. The place was bought, the money paid, Thomas Jenkins signing the deed.

"The two brothers then returned to Nantucket for their families, and influenced twenty other families to follow them. In the Autumn of 1783, Seth Jenkins and John Alsop were the first to arrive at Claverack Landing. Seth's family consisted of his wife, (Dinah Folger,) four children, one (Robert) a boy of eleven years, and Dinah Coffin, the mother of Dinah Folger. Seth Jenkins's house was the first to be built, and during its erection his family lived on the ship.

"According to Winterbotham's History, published in 1796, the City of Hudson has had the most rapid growth of any place in America, if we except Baltimore, in Maryland.

"In 1811 this ancestral home was built by Robert Jenkins, then thirty-nine years old. At the age of nineteen he was at the head of the first cotton mill in the State, and held many positions of honor and trust.

"While on a recent visit to Hudson, I was much pleased to learn of the noble work being done by the Hendrick Hudson Chapter in raising a free library. In a conversation with one of your citizens, Dr. H. Lyle Smith, he remarked to me that this home would be a fitting and excellent place of custody for this library, and at this time I want to thank Dr. H. Lyle Smith for the assistance he has given me, and the untiring energy, enthusiasm, and interest he has shown, and it is also my desire to thank the Building Committee and the House Board for their efforts.

"With this deed to the Hendrick Hudson Chapter, through your Regent, passes this ancestral home, conveying with it these words from the Good Book: 'May length of days be in your right hand, and in your left hand riches and honor.'"

Mrs. Gillette accepted the gift on behalf of the chapter. She said in part:

"You have done me the honor of electing me to be your Regent, and for you and in your name I accept this magnificent gift from the benevolent and gracious donor, Mrs. Marcellus Hartley. The beauty of the structure, with its adornments so well suited to its perfection, more than fulfills the highest expectations of us all. Would that it were in my power to utter words that should adequately express the appreciation of Hendrick Hudson Chapter of this most generous gift.

"This great assemblage, gathered together at this time, voices the sentiments of Hudson better than any words of mine. Every citizen says to-day: 'Long may you live to see the fruits of your magnificent gift. May it serve to bring you still oftener in our midst, that you may behold this lasting memorial to your honored family.'

"As Hendrick Hudson Chapter accepts this deed it wishes also to express its deepest gratitude to the Building Committee which has so wisely helped our beneficent donor. We also wish to thank the Mayor and the Common Council for their generous response to our petition for the benefit of the public library, for it is due to them that we are so well equipped to-day and our circulation increasing, and that Hendrick Hudson Chapter can give Hudsonians the benefit of books."

Walter H. McIlroy, the tenor of Garden City Cathedral, sang "America" and "The Star Spangled Banner," the audience rising and joining in the choruses. A reception followed the exercises of presentation.

A tablet commemorating the history of the house has been placed in the building. On it is the following inscription:

This Tablet Is Erected to the Memory of


who with his brother Thomas founded the
City of Hudson. He was appointed its
first Mayor by Governor De Witt Clinton
which distinction he enjoyed from April
1785 to his death in 1793
Also to his son


who was appointed the third Mayor by Gov. 
Daniel D. Tompkins serving a like period
of 10 years 1808 to 1813 and 1815 to 1819
Robert built this house in the year
1811 where he resided until his
death Nov. 11th 1819

Presented to the Hendrick Hudson Chapter
D. A. R. by his granddaughter Frances
Chester White Hartley
A. D. 1900

To-morrow night a colonial fete will be held in the Chapter House, and a performance by the Hudson Players' Club will be given in the new auditorium on the night following. There will also be a round of receptions during the week. 

Hudson from Helicopter

Tad Mann took this photograph of Hudson's waterfront from a helicopter. At the center of the picture is the Holcim dock. The photo provides an interesting vantage point from which to contemplate what, in an ideal world, our waterfront could be. Click here for a larger version of the photo. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Way the News Was Once Reported

These intriguing news items, reported in consecutive paragraphs in a single column, appeared in the Daily Register for August 17, 1898--evidence that Hudson has always been a happening place.  

It is stated that Peter Malone, the man who was assaulted by Thomas Fahey on Diamond street, Monday evening, cannot recover. The news is received everywhere with unfeigned sorrow. Mr. Fahey, who in a moment of passion struck Mr. Malone, has always been highly respected and has always borne an excellent reputation, and his many friends sympathetize with him in the trouble in which his rashness has placed him.

During the storm last evening, lightning struck the Harder mill and did slight damage in the drying room. The bolt started a small fire which was extinguished by a few pails full of water.

A straw ride party that started to visit Robert Clum at Clermont last evening called on Mr. Clum at 3 o'clock this morning. The driver lost his way. He got the party back into Hudson at 8 o'clock this morning.

"Mary and I Go To Europe" by A. Piller, doctor (Dr. H. Lyle Smith) is in the hands of a local publisher and will be issued by Hendrick Hudson Chapter, D. A. R., for the benefit of the fund being raised for the purpose of erecting a public library building in this city. The book is in Dr. Smith's well known humorous style, and it is asserted that Mark Twain has never done anything its equal.

Arthur Guertin's black bear made its escape from its quarters on Third street this afternoon and furnished amusement for about three hundred people who gathered to witness the capture which was made with difficulty.

A German woman, who is constantly in trouble with an Italian neighbor, created a sensation by tearfully rehearsing her woes on Warren street this morning. As usual the Italian had doused her with a bucket full of water. There is a sameness to the proceedings and the woman's tale that is making both tiresome.

Gossips Is One Year Old!

Today is Gossips' first anniversary. On January 20, 2010, The Gossips of Rivertown published its very first post. Five hundred and forty posts later, Gossips has become a part of  life for many people who care about Hudson. Last Tuesday, January 11, was a record day: 1,267 pageviews!

To help celebrate Gossips' first anniversary, consider joining the party and becoming a voluntary paid subscriber. You name your own subscription rate. Those who have done so have set the rate anywhere from $10 to $200. Gossips humbly appreciates reader support at any level and thanks you all for making this first year such a gratifying success.    

Viral News

Over the weekend, the rumor that Etsy might be coming to Hudson made the rounds on Warren Street and beyond. Gossips reported the rumor at 7:15 p.m. on Sunday night.

By 1:10 p.m. on Monday, the rumor reported on Gossips made it to the Etsy forum. People posting on the forum called for confirmation, and at 5:22 p.m. on Monday, Etsy founder Rob Kalin, posting as rokali, obliged: "Yep, it's true. . . . Why Hudson? It's a great town, we found a fantastic building, and I know so many good people up there." At 5:41 p.m., Kalin sent an email to many Hudson business owners introducing himself and confirming that Etsy was opening an office in Hudson.

On Tuesday morning, Sam Pratt commented about Hudson's worst kept secret on his blog. Sometime on Tuesday, the WGXC Newsroom picked up the story. By 5:48 p.m. on Tuesday, the news was reported by Ivan Lajara on his blog at the Kingston Daily Freeman

And this morning, Thursday, the Register-Star has the story, after Mayor Richard Scalera "furnished" them with a copy of the email sent to business owners: "Etsy on its way to city." The article quotes extensively from Kalin's email and reports the reactions to the news from Scalera, Common Council President Don Moore, and Lori Selden, acting chair of the Hudson Business Coalition.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lafarge Public Hearing Thursday Night

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will hold a Legislative Public Hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed modernization of the Lafarge Ravena cement plant on Thursday, January 20, at 6 p.m. The hearing will take place in the auditorium at Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Senior High School, 2025 Route 9W, in Ravena. Click here for the full press release issued by CASE (Community Advocates for Safe Emissions) and Friends of Hudson. 

Habitat Gets Its Land

The Common Council braved icy streets and sidewalks to convene their regular meeting on Tuesday night. Two members--Third Ward Alderman Ellen Thurston and First Ward Alderman Sarah Sterling--came with cross-country ski poles to give them stability while negotiating the slippery streets, and one--Third Ward Alderman Chris Wagoner--arrived late, explaining that removing the ice from his car had taken longer than anticipated. Two were absent--Fifth Ward Alderman Dick Goetz, enjoying his three-month winter holiday in Florida, and Fourth Ward Alderman Sheila Ramsey, absent for reasons not explained. Just a handful of spectators turned out for the meeting: three reporters--Debora Gilbert from Columbia Paper, Lindsay Suchow from the Register-Star, and Gossips--along with City Treasurer Eileen Halloran, the ubiquitous Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes, and Hudson Democratic Committee Chair Victor Mendolia. Conspicuous for his absence was Mayor Richard Scalera.

The reason the meeting could not be cancelled or postponed, despite the dreadful weather--and the reason why Council President Don Moore, husky-voiced and obviously battling a cold or the flu, had worked throughout the day to make sure all the aldermen would be there--was one of the resolutions before the Council: the one to allow the transfer of three City-owned lots on the 200 block of Columbia Street to Habitat for Humanity. Habitat needs a commitment from the City before the end of the month in order to apply for two major grants, and because the disposal of City-owned real property requires a three-quarters majority--1,555 votes--all the available aldermen had to be there. With Goetz and Ramsey absent, if Wagoner had not shown up to cast his 220 votes, there wouldn't have been enough votes for the resolution to pass even with everyone voting in the affirmative. As it was, with all the aldermen present voting aye, the resolution passed with 1,655 votes--only a hundred more than required. (If you're curious about those weighted votes and how many votes the aldermen representing you have to cast, click here for the chart.) 

Moore explained that the parcels are not among those being requested by Omni Development for Bliss Towers replacement units. He also indicated that a program would be made available to residents of Bliss Towers to help them qualify to buy the Habitat houses. City Attorney Jack Connor commented on the title issue, indicating that an affidavit would be needed from the Power and Restoration Church, attesting that they had not fulfilled the condition of the deed transfer in 2003, which required them to build a church on the land within two years to keep the land from reverting back to the City.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

All the News . . . in 1883

While sleuthing through old newspapers on the Fulton History site, I discovered this amusing item from the Evening Register for April 9, 1883. Bears have been sighted in Hudson in recent years, but the circumstances have not been quite the same. 

A Bear-Faced Transaction
This city was full of bears, this morning. Chief of Police Snyder informed the captain general who run [sic] the "bear show" that if he didn't trot his animals out of town he would trot the whole gang into the presence of sheriff Proper. "They trotted." It didn't seem to be a good season for bears, somehow or other.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What's in Store for the Courthouse?

There's an article in today's Register-Star about the county's Public Works and Engineering Departments' plans for 2011: "County outlines 2011 infrastructure goals." After paragraphs devoted to salt sheds and bridges, there is this information: "Also on the agenda this year are renovations to the Columbia County Courthouse—hopefully. Robinson expects construction to begin on the courthouse this year, after financing is in order and the Office of Court Administration approves the final design drawings."

The courthouse, which was built in 1907, was designed by the celebrated architectural firm of Warren and Wetmore, also the designers of Grand Central Station in New York City. The renovations being contemplated are to make the courthouse ADA compliant--introducing a handicapped entrance, an elevator, and handicapped accessible bathrooms--and provide central air conditioning. Lothrop Associates have been working on the plans for the renovations for several months now, and the New York State Office of Court Administration has been reviewing them, but so far the plans have not been made public.

Fifty Years Ago

On January 17, 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his final speech from the White House after two terms in office. In his farewell address, the retired five-star general who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II warned against military expansion. Here is an excerpt: 
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
The entire speech merits attention on the fiftieth anniversary of its delivery. Click here to read or listen to the text; click here to watch the video.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ear to the Ground

Rumor has it that, the e-commerce website for handmade and vintage items, has rented space in the Cannonball Factory and is planning to open a customer service center here in Hudson. According to Wikipedia, Etsy, which was founded in 2005, had seven million registered users in December 2010 and $400 million in transactions for the year.

Rags, Tangos, Preludes and Fugues

The next concert in the ClaverackLanding Classical Series at Club Helsinki is coming up next Sunday, January 23. The concert features renowned pianist and conductor Joshua Rifkin, who "'created, almost alone, the Scott Joplin revival,' helped popularize the tangos of Ernesto Nazareth, and played a leading renegade role in interpreting Bach's vocal works." In this rare U.S. performance, Rifkin offers a Hudson audience the chance to experience "the driving complexity and sublime beauty of J. S. Bach next to the expressive world of ragtime and the tango--in many ways the same expressive world--poised delicately between exuberance and melancholy."

The concert begins at 4 p.m. Visit the Club Helsinki website for more information and to make reservations. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Website for Logophiles

I recently discovered an entertaining website for people who love new terms and clever coinages: Paul McFedries Word Spy.

My current favorites from the site are Velcro dog, a dog who sticks close to his human and follows her from room to room (that's my William), and locapour, someone who drinks only locally produced wine or beer.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Visits to the Department of State

Earlier this week, representatives of The Valley Alliance and Scenic Hudson met with four representatives of the New York State Division of Coastal Resources to discuss Hudson's controversial LWRP (Local Waterfront Revitalization Program). The meeting has been described as "cordial and productive." A full account can be read at The Valley Alliance website.

Rumor has it that Mayor Rick Scalera and Common Council President Don Moore had a meeting at the Department of State today.

Another House Demolished in Hudson

A house was demolished today on Robinson Street. It was on the list of buildings that Fourth Ward Supervisor Bill Hughes had identified as "demolishable" to make way for the new units needed to replace Bliss Towers, but the demolition of the building today seems to have no connection with that project. Rumor has it that the house may have been razed to allow an adjacent house to have a garden.

Photographs by John Peterson and Peter Frank   

The Hazards of Being a Pedestrian

Today's Register-Star reports about Second Ward Supervisor Ed Cross's appeal at Monday's Common Council meeting that something be done about motorists who ignore crosswalks and the pedestrians in them: "City talks car versus pedestrian problems." Not to belittle Cross's unfortunate encounter with a car driven by an inattentive driver or to minimize the problem, which is very real in Hudson, the situation called to mind this article from the Evening Register on September 10, 1898. Gossips publishes it as a reminder that sharing the way with wheeled vehicles has always been a dangerous proposition.


Miss Marion Magoun Quite Badly Hurt by a Stranger in Green Street

Her Head Cut, Her Body Bruised and Her Clothing Torn in the Accident.

Another victim of the irrepressible scorcher in the person of Miss Marion Magoun lies in a bed of pain she having sustained injuries that are very painful if not permanent in effect.

The accident happened on Green street near the residence of George McKinstry at 11 o'clock last evening. There had been a card party at the home of Mrs. William I. Gray, and a group of nine of the guests among whom was Miss Magoun were walking homeward on the side of the street, there being no sidewalk at the point where the accident occurred, when suddenly out of the darkness came a warning rung by the cyclist, who though having the road clear to the right, bore down on the party from behind. So quickly did he come into view that the ladies were confused and in attempting to escape from danger Miss Magoun had the misfortune to get into the path of the swiftly moving wheel. She was knocked down with such force that she rolled over and over, and her head, coming in contact with the macadam, was badly cut. She was severely bruised about the body and her clothing was soiled and torn.

The scorcher, who was a stranger, stopped to see what injury had been done, and promised to send a doctor to the scene of the accident, but his mission was not accomplished, for he mounted and rode swiftly away and that was the last seen or heard of him.

During the excitement and confusion, in which one lady fainted, a gentleman drove up and kindly took Miss Magoun and her mother to their home on Union street in his carriage. He then went for Dr. H. Lyle Smith, who examined the young lady, cared for her wounds and allayed the fears of friends by informing them that he did not anticipate any lasting injurious results from the accident.

To-day Miss Magoun's condition was much improved although the results of the shock will probably keep her confined to her room for several days.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Don Moore on the Dock

Since First Ward Alderman Sarah Sterling presented her resolution on Monday night that would authorize Mayor Scalera to negotiate with Holcim to buy the dock, there have been questions about the mayor’s prior knowledge of this resolution and about the feasibility of what the resolution proposes. To provide some clarity about the issue, Common Council President Don Moore made this statement in a Friends of Hudson listserv discussion and agreed to let Gossips publish it here.

“I have spoken with the Mayor about whether Holcim would sell the property. Holcim has been formally approached about the value of the property. Last June, at the City’s request, face-to-face discussions began between the Mayor, Cheryl Roberts, and myself; Holcim; O&G; Scenic Hudson and Open Space Institute about the disposition of Holcim’s lands and the possible configuration of an access road to the port other than the causeway. These discussions were prompted largely as a consequence of public comments I authored in March that were critical of, among other things, the vagueness of the land transfers from Holcim to the City proposed in the LWRP.

"I announced at a Common Council Meeting in July at which the LWRP was discussed that these discussions were taking place. The five-way discussions came to a halt in late summer with Holcim’s attorney stating that the question of exactly how much land would be on the table was sent up the line to Holcim’s home office. I never heard back from Holcim with a decision or another negotiating option. To the best of my knowledge, neither did any of the other participants.

"The issue of whether Holcim would sell the port or whether eminent domain were a viable option became very public question in the fall as a result of discussions at Common Council meetings and in private citizen advocacy meetings. One outcome was a letter writing campaign initiated by Hudson businesses to Scenic Hudson and Open Space Institute urging those two organizations to purchase the entire 1,800-acre Holcim holdings. It was assumed, and I believe still is assumed, that Holcim would not sell the port separately. I do not recall hearing if a definitive answer came from SH or OSI. However, SH subsequently published a letter in the Columbia Paper declining to be involved in financially underwriting an eminent domain action.

"It is painfully clear that Holcim’s decision to pursue a challenge to their assessment is completely, ludicrously at odds with their other positions regarding the disposition of the port. The question is not whether $1.5 million is reasonable as an assessment. It simply can’t be. The question is would Holcim sell the property for that amount or anything close to it. At this point, what I know says it’s highly unlikely.

"As to how much the port, or for that matter Holcim’s entire holdings, is worth on the market, there is no current, accurate data. The figures that were thrown around, which is to say these estimates had little basis in any sort of appraisal of which I am aware, for all Holcim’s property (Hudson and Greenport) was between $20 and $40 million. Hudson’s assessor this year increased the assessed value of the port from $2,317,100 to $4.563,200. From my recent discussion with professional assessment firms, it is particularly clear that the assessment of the port must be done by independent experts who specialize in appraising “unique and highly complex properties,” of which this port is a prime example. Though it will be relatively costly, I look forward to a court-ordered appraisal of the port to fix its assessment. Whether through the court, or a similar expert appraisal done for the City, we will determine a fair tax rate, even if we can’t fix exactly the value the port would fetch in the open market."